As I watched all three of our little monsters play hide and seek—in all its various versions— completely by themselves, I realized things are changing. We did it. We survived babies. We graduated into having three kids. Real, elementary school-aged kids. No more toddlers, or babies, or infants. Our preschooler is hardly that anymore. Now they do almost everything without us. The last one basically potty trained herself. They play games, all together. Without any adult intervention. And they don’t implode. The middle one even remembers to feed the fish (that most of the time we forget is still with us). It dawns on me over and over again each day, we have crossed over.
I’ve been feeling it a lot lately. My car feels too big. Like I don’t need a small house on wheels safely surrounding their baby car seats. They eat their kids’ meals in a flash and puppy-dog eye my food. They have much too mature conversations for my three little babies that used to nap on me. I didn’t know what to do at first. So, I got a job. I got a job as not to wander around a cold, quiet house of empty. And I still feel it. They don’t need me as much anymore. They don’t need me to help them count. They don’t need me to cover them up with blankets. They find better hiding spots than I ever could, places I can definitely not fit into anymore. Don’t they know I sacrificed my svelte figure to grow and feed them for over a decade?!
Don’t they know I let them slobber kiss me goodnight, and hope they never change until their first girl or boyfriend shows them how to do it better? Do they know I still check on them during the night because I want to make sure they are breathing and cannot fathom a day when they’d think of sneaking out? Don’t they know they used to listen to us more than they listen to each other?! Do they know we will always want to wish them sweet dreams? Don’t they know this is harder for us than it is for them?!
Don’t get me wrong. I am so not looking at sweet little babies passing by and wishing for more. No way, no how. Three is like 300 around here. Do I wish we could go back and soak up more Dreft smells? Not really, there’s still a hint in the air and I was so not a diaper and baby talk kind of mama. But I remember carrying a baby out of elementary school, exhausted. Asking a pro-mom, does it get easier? She said, no unfortunately it does not. The older they get, the harder it gets. But how could life possibly do that to us? Make it harder, with fewer sweet baby rewards. I can’t remember the last knock-over hug I got. Or the last sticky snack they offered to share with me. The please don’t go, Mama, stay here with meeeeee’s are a faint memory. Are you saying this is going to get harder, with real big kid stuff, and they’re going to think they need me less and I’ll know even less and I’ll get fewer hugs and kisses out of the deal? WHAT?! We must be doing this wrong.
But if they are doing well, if they are taking care of themselves and each other so well, does that mean we did it right? We did our job? A good job. And what now? Do I keep wiping their noses? Do we keep taking baths together? Do we get a smaller car? A bigger one? Because they grow out of clothes faster than I can wash them. Will they continue to cross over into new phases that we didn’t realize were coming? Or the older they get, the closer to adults they become, and the closer to us they will be, right? Will they always think they know more than us? Because that is not a teenage thing around here. That started in the troublesome threes. We know nothing and they know so much. I guess we told them how smart they were too much. Do they like each other more than they like us? Because I remember a time when they were either always bickering or plotting against us. But I don’t think we were ever this invisible. I’m glad I found a job. They seem to need me there. I’m glad we have a dog, because he doesn’t seem to age. He has not matured beyond big slobbery kisses and being totally helpless in the bath. And our cats, I’m so glad we have them. Because they remind me of my life before children. But I fear for the fish.
Does it ever get better? I feel like I was the all-powerful source of nourishment. I was the all-knowing encyclopedia, a champion racecar driver, and a world-class rocking chair operator. I could settle any argument with that look. I could cease raining tears with the right kind of lollipop. I gave the gifts of dreams and had Oscar-worthy character voices at story time. Now, I cook the meals, do the laundry, and shuttle them through their Olympic-sized school and sports schedule. Do they thank me? Totally. But I don’t think I do it because I need appreciation. I do it because it’s my job and they will always be babies to me. Until they have babies, I think. I do it because it’s my job. Nobody, like absolutely nobody else, would do it like we do. Our kids and our parenting style are uniquely bizarre. And because I am glad to watch them grow. They survived us as much as we survived them, during their decade-long babyhoods. Babydom? They were babies. And now they are all… kids. We have three kids.
The last baby has crossed over, but it wasn’t like the rest of us were aware and waiting on her. We did it all together. They crossed over together. All three of them. And I am glad. We’re glad. And we’re proud of our three life accomplishments, who might still need us in this never-ending game of life.